Here’s 5 mistakes beginner consultants make when they prepare a consultancy proposal.
Mistake # 1 – They don’t get enough background information
When they receive a consultancy brief from a potential client it’s common for new consultants to presume that this has all the information they need to prepare a response. But in fact, consultancy briefs rarely tell the full picture. It’s really important that your consultancy proposal demonstrates to the client that you understand their problem, their context and what they need. And to do that you need to dig a bit deeper and think beyond the written brief. Talk to the potential client to find out more. Get the back story; get them to tell you the problem in their own words; find out what they’re really looking for. In other words, make sure you really do understand what they need so you can write a proposal that hits the mark .
Mistake # 2 -They include way too much information
Potential clients are very busy people and if your proposal is a tome they have to wade through, chances are you’ll lose them pretty quickly. Don’t be tempted to add more and more. Instead you need to find a way to provide all the essential information as succinctly as possible, and nothing superfluous. If your competition nails this and you don’t, you’ve got a pretty good idea where this is heading.
Mistake # 3 -They don’t clearly outline their proposed methodology
When you were an employee there was no requirement to map out exactly how you would go about your role – you just got on with the job. But all that changes now you’re a consultant. When you pitch for a project the client needs to know what you plan to do for them. How do you plan to go about addressing the problem you’re presented with; what methods and tools do you plan to use; who will you talk to; how will your time be allocated? The currency of solo consulting is projects and so project planning is your bread and butter. Show the client you can do this right from the get-go by providing a clear methodology in your proposal.
Mistake # 4 – Their proposal doesn’t have a logical flow
If you’re not familiar with the consultancy proposal process its easy to get confused about exactly what to include and how to structure your proposal. But if the client has to constantly flip back and forth to find what they’re looking for, then you’re definitely going to lose points in the competitive process. Your proposal needs to have a logical flow that takes them from your understanding of the problem, to how you’ll go about undertaking it, to costs, timeframes, and so on. So make sure you think about how to structure your proposal so it makes sense for the client.
Mistake # 5 – They don’t build in risk management strategies
Every consultancy project has some risks, for example in terms of scope, or timeframes, or stakeholder management. And the very first point at which you need to demonstrate you’re paying attention to risk management is in your consultancy proposal. The client is looking for a consultant who recognises the potential risk points and is clearly thinking ahead about how those might be managed. So you need to look ahead and identify any potential pitfalls and areas you envisage scope creep might be a problem. Don’t ignore those niggling concerns when you’re preparing a proposal because chances are, they’ll come back to bite you. Be proactive, flag them up front and demonstrate that you’re paying attention to risk management.
Jacq Hackett provides expert consulting services to public health agencies. And as a veteran of over two decades of consulting, she now provides coaching and development for other consultants. She is passionate about supporting the next generation of public sector consultants to become very good at what they do.
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